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GOP Health Bill Would Cut Deficit but Leave 52 Million Uninsured, CBO Says

The Republican alternative to the Democratic health care reform bill may cut costs, but it fails to make a dent in the problem of millions of Americans who lack health insurance, according to a preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO estimated that in 2019 the GOP alternative would leave “about 52 million nonelderly residents uninsured,” meaning the percentage of uninsured Americans would be unchanged from current levels.

“The share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage in 2019 — 83 percent — would be roughly in line with the current share,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote on the CBO Web site Wednesday night.

The CBO scored the major provisions of the GOP alternative — including expanding access to individual health care plans across state lines, providing awards to states for covering the uninsured and expanding the use of health savings accounts — as adding $8 billion to the deficit.

But the CBO’s overall estimate was that the Republican plan would significantly reduce the deficit by $68 billion between 2010 and 2019, primarily by placing limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.

The bill spends $61 billion on insurance provisions compared with $1.055 trillion under the House Democratic plan.

The CBO said that average premiums for insurance would shrink modestly, in large part because of lower medical malpractice costs.

In 2016, the CBO estimates that small group insurance premiums would drop 7 percent to 10 percent compared with current law. Individual insurance prices would drop 5 percent to 8 percent, and in the large group market, the plan would cut prices from zero to 3 percent.

However, the CBO said some people could see higher premiums, including, potentially, older and sicker people.

While Republicans lauded the reduction in premiums and the deficit in their plan, Democrats blasted it as essentially preserving a status quo that leaves more than 50 million Americans without affordable health care.

“The House Republican health care bill proves that we can lower health care costs, without launching a government takeover of health care,” Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said in a statement Wednesday night. “The Pelosi plan for more spending, higher taxes, bloated bureaucracies and federal mandates is not the prescription for health care reform that the American people expect.”

“Republicans listened to the American people who are saying loud and clear: lower health care costs,” said Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “This bill will significantly reduce health care premiums and insure millions of Americans without raising taxes or spending $1 trillion, which is what the Democrats do.”

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